Going into the 2011 season of basketball, the Arizona Wildcats basketball team were after thoughts in the Pac-10 conference. The team was coming off a season with a record of one game above .500 that was with a brand new coach. Things were looking better for this season but nothing great.
But what happened was greatness. A star was born in Derrick Williams, other players stepped up during the season at different times, the Wildcats won the Pac-10 conference and coach Sean Miller looked like he was going to lead this team back to the promised Land and an Elite 8 appearance did not hurt either.
So is the Arizona basketball program back on the right track?
The answer to that is 100 percent yes.
Even if Derrick Williams leaves for the draft this year the team still has tons of potential. Miller is becoming one of the best coaches on the west coast. His demeanor on and off the court helps players get it done academically and physically. He knows the teams strengths and weaknesses.
The Wildcats still have three starters returning and most of their bench. The only player to graduate is Jamelle Horne. The bench has two very solid players who can have a big game anytime, Kevin Parrom and Solomon Hill. Both Hill and Parrom can do a little bit of everything from score to pass to rebound and play very good defense.
Brandon Lavender also comes back and will be coming off the bench too. Lavender is a very good defender who can shoot the three. He can guard any kind of guard and is a very physical defender.
Jordin Mayes also will most likely come off the bench next year. He impressed me a lot this year with his barrage of three pointers. Mayes can also play very good defense against some of the best and won't back down. His three point shooting will also help a lot.
Another player coming off the bench would be Kyryl Natyazkho who could develop into a decent big man this off season. Natyazkho can always help no matter what though because of his size and the way he disrupts shots.
Lamont Jones, also known as Momo Jones, also returns next year after having a good year being the starting point guard. Jones is a very good game manager who knows when to pass the ball or shoot it. He has a good shot and can also drive the ball to the hoop.
Jesse Perry also returns next year after having a pretty good first year with the Wildcats. Perry is an aggressive rebounder who can rebound on both sides of the ball. He is also a very good defender against bigger players. He should develop a better offensive game during the off season to make himself better.
Shooting guard Kyle Fogg also returns for his senior year. Fogg is also a very good shooter and should improve on his game during the off season to help him become one of the best players in the Pac-10. What I like about Fogg though, is his defense. Fogg plays great defense against some of the best players in the Pac-10 and it should only get better next year.
Then there is the recruiting class, maybe the best one ever at Arizona.
According to ESPN the Wildcats have four top 100 recruits coming in. Sidiki Johnson is a power forward from Bronx, New York. He is 6'8'' 220 lbs. and his body should be able to put more weight on with a good training program. Johnson is an excellent athlete for someone his size and could help the team next year coming off the bench.
Josiah Turner is a dynamic point guard who can create scoring chances from anywhere inside the the three point line. Turner is also extremely quick to the basket and blows by defenders very often. Even though he is known for his scoring Turner can also pass the ball very well. Turner should enjoy a lot of playing time coming off the bench next year and maybe could even start.
Another top 100 recruit that is committed to the Wildcats is Angelo Chol. Chol is an extremely athletic power forward who averaged eight blocks per game in high school. His face up game is his main offensive ability so he will have to work on a back to the basket kind of game. His mid range is not bad but could be worked on. His athleticism will always help him in the long run.
The last recruit for the Wildcats is shooting guard Nick Johnson. Johnson flat out flies. If you search his name on YouTube you will find videos of him doing ridiculous dunks that look so easy for him.
But thats not all hes good at. Johnson can has a deadly three pointer and can also pass the ball out of tough situations. Johnson is also a great defender who is very pesky. He can defend almost any type of guard and has very quick hands. Johnson is also one of the best shot blockers in the country even at his size of 6'3".
Overall the Wildcats are looking good for years to come. Even if Derrick Williams leaves this team could make another run in the tournament and will be in the top 25 if not top 10 all year long. And if Derrick Williams stays expect to maybe see what happened in 1997: another championship.
Follow Ben Goldstein on Twitter @ BIGben2010